Tuesday, July 31, 2007

He Who Knows No Shame

Ehud Olmert. It is almost hard for me to speak his name. He has announced that "we are correcting a 60 year old injustice that has never to date been solved. Holocaust survivors living in Israel are entitled to lives of dignity...." Apparently a holocaust survivors dignity is only worth 83 shekels a month. This is according to an article published in Haaretz today. I'll let the facts and figures speak for themselves.

One hundred and twenty thousand holocaust survivors live in Israel today. According to the article the survivors must be at least seventy years old to be eligible for the stipend. The program is not scheduled to start till next year. In 2008 120 million will be allocated, in 2009 240 million will be allocated and 300 million in 2011. So if they live till 2011 they will get 260 shekels worth of dignity. According to the announcement the decision was based on a recommendation of a committee within the Ministry of Welfare. According to Haaretz the committee recommended giving the survivors a little over a thousand shekels a month. Herzog, the minister of welfare denied that it would be 83 shekels a month. He claimed it would be a reasonable sum. How much? "A very suitable package." Take that to the bank and try to buy some dignity with it.There is also talk about hundreds of millions of shekels from non government sources. The sources are mostly nameless although Herzog the Welfare Minister listed some of these sources as "the Jewish People and Germany"

Olmert is only the head of this shameful and callous group. Its members who also think dignity costs 83 shekels a month include the Finance Minister Bar On, Justice Minister Friedman, Pensioners Minister Rafi Eitan, Health Minister Yakov Ben Yizri and the afore mentioned Welfare Minister Herzog. All of them present at this announcement and all feeling as though they have done a good deed for the less fortunate.

Ten percent of survivors die every year. As one of them put it "the government is choosing a biological solution. " The government needs to do the dignified thing. They should not spread it out over the years but take the lump sum of 720 million shekel and divide it among the survivors in a lump sum giving them the dignity to do with the money what they see fit. As for the man with no shame...vote him out. Elections will come sooner or later. Let him disgrace us no more. Vote Olmert out of office.

Submitted by Carol

Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Horizons on the Horizon

While I am searching in Israel for new leadership I look with envy at the PA. Their new prime minister was born from the ashes of Fatah and Hamas. You might say that's a bit dramatic but I think its true. Now I can only hope that the people let him lead.

Fayyad first came to my attention after a simple statement he made. He said he would work on building the PA's economy and infrastructure regardless of what is happening as far as negotiations with Israel. Halleluyah brother! Something I have been saying for a long time. Do I dare think he listens to our podcast? Finally someone who is ready to govern. Much of the reason Hamas rose to power is because in the PA no one was willing to govern. They filled a void and helped Palestinians with their schooling and health care for example. Lets face it,people want a better life. In that quest you don't always look further down the road. A hamas led Palestinian society would have meant the death of Palestinian society. Hamas wants a strict Islamic state. No more inventors because you wouldn't be studying science. No more poetry and literature unless it is sanctioned by the party. Need I go on?

This week I read that Fayyad did not put armed resistance to Israel in his platform. No more groups and splinter groups doing what they want which is to kill innocent Israeli's. It will no longer be sanctioned by the PA government. The PA will be the ones standing up for the Palestinians in a face off with Israel. What an idea! Of course this ironically struck terror in the hearts of the terrorists groups. So many terrorists might be out of work. The PRC already has threatened that they will kill Fayyad and his cronies. They claim that no one has the right to stop the Palestinians armed resistance of Israel. Not ever. Under no circumstances. If he can scare the terrorists then he is on the right track. Of course they have dragged out their tiresome refrain that if you don't back them then you are a collaborator with Israel. Unfortunately I can't help but think of Anwar Sadat. A true man of peace killed by terrorists because of it. Will history repeat itself?

I don't expect Fayyad to suddenly see the light and realize that what we want is the right thing for the PA to do. I know that he wants a return to the 67 borders. That's not happening so welcome to the negotiation table Prime Minister Fayyad. The difference for me is that he is someone we can bargain with because he seems to have his peoples best interest in mind. I look foward to the challenge.

Submitted by Carol

Sunday, July 22, 2007

To Naqba or Not to Naqba

On May 15th Palestinians celebrate a day called the Naqba. It is no coincidence that it is the day after our Independence Day. Naqba means disaster. Palestinians mark this day as the day their people suffered a catastrophe. No they are not talking about a disaster brought upon themselves. We are the catastrophe. If not for our existence...you know the rest. Yuli Tamir the Minister of Education has just okayed a textbook for the Arab school system in Israel that talks about the Naqba.

The name of the textbook is Living Together in Israel. This book is of all things a geography book!What surprised me most was that it was a third grade textbook. Maybe its been a long time since I was in third grade but I just can't see this being the topic for any valid discussion. In fairness to the book it does mention that the Arabs refused the UN partition plan which would have divided the land between the Arabs and Jews. It does say that Israel accepted the plan. However since it is a third grade book it talks in broad strokes which can lead to easy misinterpretation. The book states that after the Arab leadership opposed the UN Partition plan "then war began." It goes on to talk about how some Arabs became refugees.

Lets leave the age appropriateness aside. That's not the real issue. The real issue is our acceptance of this idea of a catastrophe brought on the Palestinians by our existence. I don't buy it and in fact I hate this day because it seeks to delegitimize us. We are a catastrophe. We are a disaster. I think the Arabs with their intolerance and hatred caused this "catastrophe" we find ourselves in. We should have a day that talks about how destructive they have been. War was their choice and in fact their only choice.

I don't have a problem with any Israeli textbook that talks about Arab villages lost in the war. Name them all. I don't have a problem with knowing this and neither should Israeli students. But likewise we need to talk about the Jewish places that were destroyed. What is the history of Hebron and its importance to the Jews. What catastrophe happened there in 1929. Jews were nassacred by Arabs and the British removed us from Hebron to "protect" us. Now the likelihood of Hebron returning to be part of Israel is slim at best. Lets talk about Silwan in East Jerusalem and the Jewish village underneath it. Lets talk about the Temple Mount and the Arabs denial that it is the Temple Mount. Lets not teach any student, Arab or Jew only the part of history that best suits them. Let us however not teach about a day that is a lie.

Submitted by Carol

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Eli Yeshai and the Hours of Work and Rest Law

Not a bad title for a book. Very reminiscent of the Harry Potter series. He could play a super muggle because he definitely has no magic in him. First lets set the scene. Our main character is Eli Yishai from Shas the Sephardic ultra orthodox party. He is the Minister of Industry Trade and Labor. There is an irony there but I don't want to go there now. In the scene he is confronted by the fact that the last Harry Potter book is scheduled for release on Shabbat. At 0201 Saturday morning to be exact. That's Israel time. The books are being globally released all at the same time.Two of the major bookstore chains in Israel will be offering the book. What will our guy do?

According to HaAretz the bookstore Steimatzky is planning a launch for the book this Friday night at the TelAviv port. The rival chain Tsomet Sfarim will be having an event at its Ga'ash branch. Eli Yishai has threatened to fine them under the hours of work and rest law because they are employing people on Shabbat. I could have predicted this scenario once I heard that the book would be coming out on Shabbat. Before I give the final word I want to reveal another character in this saga. Member of Knesset Ravitz of United Torah Judaism the Ashkenazi Ultra Orthodox party. According to Ynet news he has said "Aside from the book and its poor content..." Did he read the book? Lets see, a book that gets kids reading and one that adults love as much as the kids must be a piece of crap. He went on to say that it " serves as education for teenagers in Israel." Well first of all anytime my kids can learn about good versus evil I'm for it. I think however he was talking about Israeli teenagers who are not ultra orthodox. So it was really a dig at our kids. To that all I can say is that they get their bagrut(matriculation exams) and graduate high school, they do army service and then they go to university and they get jobs.They become productive members of society. Do you get my drift MK Ravitz?

Here is my bottom line. Israel is the Jewish State. It is the state for all Jews. It is not the Ultra Orthodox Jewish state or the Reform/Progressive Jewish State for that matter. Steimatzky is having an event in Tel Aviv. It is not opening all its branches. Tzomet Sfarim is having its event at Ga'ash which has stores open on Shabbat all the time. Neither are in places that might disturb the Shabbat for someone who is observant. Eli Yishai and company are simply wrong on this one.

submitted by Carol

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More Coffee Please

I have had my morning coffee but yet I am still having trouble wrapping my brain around the morning headlines. On Ynet the headline reads Fatah Gunmen Disarm. In our desire to find ways to make Abbas strong like bull something interesting is happening. The first gesture was that we would release 250 Palestinian prisoners most of whom belong to Fatah. These guys are all almost at the end of their sentences. While I'm not against their release I have to laugh at some of the pundits who think this will strengthen Abbas. They think the Palestinians will be awed by Abbas's power to get what he wants from Israel. They basically think the Palestinians are stupid. Step two however is something else.

Israel is offering amnesty to 178 members of Fatah's terrorist wing including Zubeidi. So far 150 men have signed the agreement in which they relinquish ties to the terror group and hand in their weapons. These are the terms according to an article in HaAretz-

The agreement with the Al-Aqsa fugitives includes four stages:

1. They will promise to refrain from terrorism and cut their links with the group.

2. They will spend a week in holding areas of the PA, where they will not be allowed to use cellular telephones or contact members of the group.

3. They will restrict their movements, for a three-month period, to the area where they reside.

4. After three months, they will be allowed to move freely in the West Bank.

These men will likely join the PA security forces. If it works there will be a win win situation. We get a PA government without a terrorist wing. We are now able to concentrate our efforts on Hamas and friends which are holed up in Gaza. This is also a win for Abbas. We can do his dirty work. Abbas can lead a strong government with a prime minister (Fayyad) who is on the right track. He wants to build the Palestinian economy and infrastructure regardless of what happens with negotiations with Israel. Something I have been talking about for a long time. The Palestinians need to take care of themselves. If Fayyad continues to lead in this way they have a ray of hope for a better life.

I think I need another cup of coffee. I must be in an alternate universe where something might go right in the middle east.

Submitted by Carol

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Knesset

In fulfilling my duties as tour guide for visiting family we went to the Knesset. It was fun to sit in the plenary hall where the speech making, the heckling and in the end the voting takes place. The Knesset was not in session so the room was quiet. Hard to imagine. Whenever talk of our parliamentary system comes up I am not sure if I should be cursing the British or our leaders who thought it best to follow in their footsteps. I dream of a day when we can have a representative government so that politicians who so love their seats might actually do something to earn them. I believe the Messiah will arrive before that happens.

The tour of the Knesset is short and most of it devoted to the artwork. I'm not a big fan of Chagall so most of the tour guides explanations were like so much background noise as my mind began to wander. Then we came to a wonderful exhibit, our declaration of independence. On May 14, 1948 the eve of the end of the British Mandate over Palestine, we declared our independence. We did so knowing that seven countries had their guns pointed at us and were getting ready for the kill. This is somehow forgotten in the Arab narrative. They wanted our death and complete destruction. I believe they are fond of the term ethnic cleansing. It fits here perfectly.

Our declaration of independence could be divided into three topics. The first talks about our rights to establish a state on this land. Next it talks about what kind of a state it will be. We will be a Jewish state open to Jewish immigration, an in gathering of exiles. It will be a democracy for all its inhabitants. Not the picture painted by the Palestinian propaganda machine. We offered equal rights to all who live here and those that do live here enjoy these rights. Lastly we extend our hands in peace to our neighbors. This fell on deaf ears. I wonder how different it could have been had hatred not blocked the ability of the Arab world to hear us.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Yad VeShem

People who live here usually go to Yad VeShem when people come to visit. You take them to do all the touristy stuff in Jerusalem. The old city, the Kotel, Machane Yehuda and the holocaust museum Yad VeShem. The holocaust is part of who we are and it colors the way we look at the world. We know that while Jewish souls were burning in Europe the seeds of yearning for our homeland were starting to blossom here. We also know that we cannot depend on the world to come to our rescue. I don't think the world as it were singles out the Jews. They don't care about genocide in Africa, or work/death camps in North Korea. After all, are we our brothers keeper?

When I go to Yad VeShem as I did this past week I am always reminded of an old woman I met who had 30 grandchildren! She likes to point to them with pride and say "that's revenge!" My children and I are the revenge for my grandparents. Revenge can leave you feeling empty. This is the best kind of revenge because it is full of life.

Walking through the museum I found myself drawn to the section dedicated to the resistance fighters. Those that survived gave their testimony. I stood in rapt attention as a woman told about the final meeting before the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Should they flee to the forest and fight with the resistance or should they stay and kill as many Nazi's as possible. Did I have that kind of courage in me? If I do it is buried deep inside of me.

At one of the stations there was a recording from Eichmann's trial. Someone was reading a letter from the Jewish resistance to the people of the Warsaw Ghetto. The letter tells the people what is really happening to the Jews that are being transported. He said not to believe the lies of the people who want to kill you. Do not believe their lies he pleads. What you must do is defend, defend, defend. Do not be afraid to defend yourself. As I heard these words I was no longer thinking of the Jews in the ghetto but of here and now. I thought of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and of a world that is not so crazy about us defending ourselves. His words may have not been meant for me but I will remember them as if he was speaking to the people of Israel in 2007.

Submitted by Carol